When it rains, it feels like you’re part of the unique land­scape beyond.

80 kilo­me­tres south of Syd­ney, the coastal vil­lage of Wom­bar­ra is defined by a 300 metre high rock escarp­ment to the west and spec­tac­u­lar views across a seclud­ed Pacif­ic Ocean beach below.

Embed­ded with­in this unique ter­rain and abut­ting an untouched Nation­al Park is the Cashman/​Pickles House, designed by Lipp­mann and com­plet­ed in 1995.

Due to the high rain­fall and the steep escarp­ment to the west, Wom­bar­ra receives more over­land stormwa­ter than any oth­er part of NSW as flash flood­ing makes its way from the high ter­rain down to the ocean at great speed. Com­pound­ing these con­di­tions is the talus clay sub­soil which Lipp­mann describes as very soupy”. As a result of the unsta­ble ter­rain con­di­tions, the Cashman/​Pickles House, is ele­vat­ed above con­crete piles drilled 6 metres below the clay to rock. Above the piles, a steel dia­grid lifts the house 2 metres in the air allow­ing the flood path to be undisturbed.

Del­i­cate but robust­ly anchored above the steel dia­grid sub-floor is a light­weight glass and steel pavil­ion, part­ly one and part­ly two storeys high, sep­a­rat­ed by an inter­con­nect­ing spi­ral steel stair­case. Sim­ple curved steel roofs define the pavil­ion form. My clients found this amaz­ing hide­away in the bush, close to the city and want­ed an unpre­ten­tious week­end retreat from their busy pro­fes­sion­al life and fam­i­ly home in inner city Bal­main” says Lipp­mann, who finds it iron­ic that a house that cost $300,000 to build, lat­er com­mand­ed unprece­dent­ed hol­i­day rental rates with high fly­ers look­ing for an escape from their high stress lifestyles. The own­ers didn’t want any­thing too pre­cious. It was designed for them and their chil­dren as a week­ender and for hol­i­days – low main­te­nance and part of the nat­ur­al world” says Lipp­mann, point­ing out the dra­mat­ic escarp­ment, beach and bush.

The approach to the Cash­man House is via a grav­el track, through thick bush and final­ly down some stone steps that lead to a small flat clear­ing and the ply­wood walls of the house.

A strate­gic pen­e­tra­tion in the ply­wood pan­els is a low entrance with a glazed wall reveal­ing the ocean beyond. Start­ing with the pri­vate access road from the street through the thick bush, it’s a very pri­vate place so there was no need to screen the point of arrival,” says Lippmann.

The sin­gle-storey sec­tion of the pavil­ion with its soar­ing bar­rel-vault­ed roofline, com­pris­es the open plan liv­ing and din­ing area, with a kitchen nes­tled along­side. The oth­er two lev­el sec­tion accom­mo­dates four bed­rooms (two on each lev­el), all of equal size and bath­rooms. The two bed­rooms locat­ed on the top lev­el were con­ceived as a main bed­room with mez­za­nine study over­look­ing the liv­ing areas or, alter­na­tive­ly, anoth­er bed­room. Unlike many city and coastal homes, where the main bed­room includes a dress­ing area and ensuite, there is no hier­ar­chy here — all res­i­dents are of equal sta­tus. The kitchen might also be con­sid­ered rel­a­tive­ly mod­est by today’s stan­dards – stain­less steel bench­tops and tim­ber veneered join­ery replaces the ubiq­ui­tous mar­ble or stone bench­es. Expan­sive tim­ber decks from all liv­ing and bed­rooms, can­tilever effort­less­ly beyond the east ele­va­tion and allow sandy feet to be brushed down before enter­ing the brush­box tim­ber floor interior.

Piv­otal to the design is the spi­ral steel stair­case, vis­i­ble from the approach and framed by glass lou­vred win­dows that extend over the two levels.

The house was designed with­out air con­di­tion­ing and only a slow com­bus­tion fire­place. The lou­vres can be opened to allow the air to cir­cu­late through the house, purg­ing the hot air in the peak of sum­mer,” says Lipp­mann. As trans­par­ent and light are the steel balustrades and stain­less-steel rig­ging wire that wraps around the ter­race, allow­ing for a close con­nec­tion with the nat­ur­al world beyond – the untamed bush and crash­ing waves of the Pacific.

At a time when pala­tial look-at-me tro­phy” homes by the beach are aspi­ra­tional for some, the Cashman/​Pickles House, a mere 165 square metres in area, is a reminder of what makes for a mem­o­rable hol­i­day expe­ri­ence — being close to the ele­ments, hear­ing the rain com­ing down a tin roof, being pro­tect­ed from sum­mer sun, feel­ing the north-east­er­ly breezes, embrac­ing the warm win­ter rays and gen­er­al­ly feel­ing part of a remark­able nat­ur­al land­scape which Wom­bar­ra is. It’s the type of expe­ri­ence that even the most lav­ish and expen­sive homes often fail to deliver.

And when it rains, as it often does, being in this house feel like being part of the unique land­scape beyond.

By Stephen Crafti


  • 1995 Win­ner Res­i­den­tial
    BHP Met­al Build­ing Awards
  • 1995 Com­men­da­tion
    Wol­lon­gong City Coun­cil Build­ing Design Awards

Project details

  • Loca­tion
    Wom­bar­ra, NSW
  • Key con­sul­tants
  • Builder
    Novot­ny Constructions
  • Pho­tog­ra­phy
    Farshid Assas­si